Apr 06

Mets Looking For Breakout Game From Offense

Nobody expected the Mets to be an offensive juggernaut, and scoring 19 runs in the first two games should have done nothing to change that impression. Certainly the last two games proved it.

They scored five runs last night, but by that time the game had already been decided.

Manager Terry Collins is hoping for a breakout game today against the Marlins.

“We’ve got a couple guys, hopefully they’re gonna start breaking out of it here pretty soon,’’ Collins said.

The Mets’ hottest hitter has been John Buck (7-for-17). David Wright and Daniel Murphy are each 3-for-14 and Ike Davis is a frigid 1-for-16.

The Mets have homered in each of the first four games, with Buck leading with two. The long-time problem of hitting with runners in scoring position has raised its ugly head as they are 2-16 in the last two games after going 10-19 in the first two. They left 12 runners on last night after leaving 16 in the first three games.

Mar 25

Did Santana Commit Career Suicide?

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HOW MUCH IS SANTANA CAUSE OF HIS OWN PROBLEMS?

When Johan Santana said he doesn’t know when he will pitch again, it isn’t inconceivable it could be never.

Santana’s left shoulder is not getting better and it isn’t unfair to wonder if the prideful or stubborn lefthander – take your pick – may have committed career suicide on March 3, a quiet Sunday that turned into one of the Mets’ loudest days of spring training.

The day after GM Sandy Alderson said he thought the Mets’ $31-million commitment was at least ten days from getting on the mound and not in good shape, Santana took it upon himself to prove him and the questioning media wrong.

Now, there’s no longer doubt of him staying in Florida or being on the Opening Day roster.

“I’ve just got to stay here and work out and get ready,’’ Santana told reporters over the weekend. “… I’m making progress. It’s just I don’t know when I’m going to be pitching again. That’s the thing: We cannot think ahead. The way we’re approaching everything is every day make sure we have a good day.’’

Too bad he wasn’t thinking that way when he expressed displeasure in not playing in the World Baseball Classic, and later anger at Alderson. Who knows what went through Santana’s mind when he took the mound with an “I’ll show you’’ chip on his shoulder.

How can there be progress when he can’t think ahead? How can there be progress when his shoulder isn’t close?

Since that day, Santana threw a light session, but was scratched from a start and has been reduced to 90-foot long tossing. Do you realize how far away that distance is from a regular season game?

He must gradually build up to 180 feet, and after cleared at that distance will he be allowed on the mound. Then, it’s throwing batting practice and building his pitch count up to 100. Manager Terry Collins said Santana needs to go through a spring training, which is six weeks. But, that clock doesn’t start until he gets on the mound, and nobody can say when that will be.

That’s progress?

And, that’s assuming there are no setbacks, of which there have been several during this struggle since shoulder surgery in September of 2010 to repair a torn anterior capsule.

Of course, it is hard to pinpoint an exact time when a pitcher’s million-dollar arm turns to ten cents. There was the injury in 2010, but Santana had issues with his shoulder in Minnesota before the trade to the Mets.

The wear and tear on a major league pitcher’s arm begins with the first pitch. Santana made 34 starts in 2008, his first year with the Mets, but had surgery in the off-season and hasn’t come close to pitching a full season since.

After two winters of rehab, Santana made it back last year with initial success, including a controversial no-hitter, the only one in franchise history.

Did Collins make a mistake leaving Santana in for 134 pitches, thinking he was giving the pitcher a shot at a career moment and Mets’ fans their lone bright spot in what would be a dark summer?

Of course, Santana didn’t want to come out, and no pitcher admits to being tired, but this was different. Had the no-hitter not been on the table Santana never would have continued pitching. His summer quickly unraveled and included a career-worst six-game losing streak.

After two winters of rehab, Santana, with the Mets’ knowledge, did not have a normal offseason. Then again, nothing has been routine about his winters since 2007 as there has been an injury issue each year.

“I’ve been in this game for a while,’’ Santana said. “I went through that [surgery] a couple of years ago and I’m still here. So I’m going to battle and try to come back and help as much as I can. When that is going to happen, I don’t really know.’’

Several questions are raised through Santana’s uncertainty. How much did the no-hitter hurt him? How carefully was Santana monitored in the offseason? Did going slower backfire? It is easy to suggest the no-hitter hurt, but how much did Santana contribute to his own demise this spring?

“I’m just building up my strength and throwing more volume,’’ Santana said. “… With injuries you never know. I got to spring training feeling good. And then, once I started getting to pitch and stuff and I got on the mound, I didn’t feel I was making progress.’’

If he didn’t believe he was making progress, then why consider the WBC?  More to the point, if he wasn’t making progress why did he get on the mound March 3, when his manager wasn’t expecting him to throw for nearly two weeks?

What forced him, pride or anger? Perhaps, he simply ran out of patience waiting to find out if he’ll ever make it back.

Santana might finally have his answer.

Feb 16

Mets To Have Platoons In Center And Right

Maybe the Mets will find somebody who is released at the end of spring training, but for now the Mets are looking at platoons in center and right field.

Center will feature Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill, and right field has Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter.

Former Cardinal and Rockie Andrew Brown will also get a chance to compete.

None of these candidates, if they played fulltime, could be expected to hit the 20 home runs Scott Hairston did last season.

Any outfield power will come from Lucas Duda. Manager Terry Collins said he’s strong enough to hit 40 homers, but he can’t be projected to hit that many, or even.

Let him hit 20 first.

Sep 13

Liking Matt Harvey More And More

Matt Harvey was not in a good mood when he was pulled last night with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth. In what might have been the best outing from a Mets’ reliever all season, Robert Carson bailed him out by getting two infield pop-ups and a fly ball.

Harvey gave up a run in five-plus innings – enough to win most games – but was clearly steamed in the dugout. He wasn’t much into handshakes and back pats, but his anger wasn’t directed at the Mets’ listless offense – 13 straight home games now scoring three or less runs and the tenth time they’ve been shutout – but at himself.

You see, Harvey is a perfectionist and last night he wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t impressed with striking out ten hitters. He would rather pitch to contact to reduce his pitch count and work longer into games.

“The biggest thing is going deeper into games and figuring it out a lot sooner, and not pressing to go for the strikeout all the time,” said Harvey. “I have to get early contact, like I’ve said before. That’s the biggest thing I’m going to work on.”

Harvey has a dominating fastball, but said his best pitch last night was his change-up. He wasn’t happy with his curveball and claimed his slider had little bite. Those are the pitches that will generate weak or awkward swings and get groundballs and pop-ups. That’s what will limit his pitch count. And, hopefully this year will be the last where he’s on an innings limit.

Manager Terry Collins said Harvey will get one more start and marveled at his maturation level at an early age.

“He’s been so impressive,” Collins said. “We’ve got something special. We’ve got something really special.”

If the Mets are inclined to keep Harvey on an innings count again next season, I hope they are paying attention to how poorly Washington handled the same issue with Stephen Strasburg. To announce it early was counterproductive. Davey Johnson, who doesn’t agree with the limit, said Strasburg’s heart wasn’t in his last start, knowing that would be it for him.

Strasburg hates it too, saying he feels he’s abandoning his teammates. You figure Harvey feels the same way.

If the Mets are going to limit Harvey’s innings next season, there’s a gradual way to achieve that goal. They can skip the occasional start or back it up to where he makes one less start a month. Over the course of the season, that’s six starts. And, they can be juggled around off-days as to give him more rest.

The only problem with that theory, is that Johan Santana is again coming off an injury and the Mets should be inclined to give him more rest.

 

Aug 22

Mets Mailing It In?

OK, I understand slumps and bad stretches. Nearly every team gets them. But, with less than 40 games remaining, they aren’t just mailing it in. Last night, they used FedEx.

Manager Terry Collins thought as much and ripped into his listless team after the game.

“We have not packed it in,” Collins insisted. “But, as I told our guys, ‘perception is reality.’ And when you sit on the outside and you watch a game like tonight, perception is, ‘they’ve packed it in.’ And I won’t stand for it.”

Collins even accepted some of the blame.

“I believe in accountability,” he said. “I believe in how you play the game right. I’m the manager here and you have a game like that, where it looks like they are not prepared, that’s my fault. That’s where I come in.”

These guys are major leaguers. They should know how to do the simple things, like covering the plate, which Bobby Parnell did not. There’s a right way and wrong way to play the game, and as professionals they don’t need a manager or coach to tell them.

Chris Young, who operates with a small margin for error to begin with, began it with a throwing error, the first of several defensive breakdowns.

Collins talked long about changing the culture of this franchise, and for awhile the Mets played alert, exciting baseball. At one time they were eight games over .500. A loss tonight and they are ten games under.

I really thought with series against Colorado and Houston the Mets still had a chance at .500. No more. They are kicking that away. They could be in the cellar by the end of the weekend.

I don’t expect much, but I do expect effort and playing the right way. The least they could do is head into winter with us feeling good about them and their season. It isn’t looking that way.